Skip to content
Skip to main content

Spray diagrams

Updated Monday, 21 June 2021
What are spray diagrams? How can you draw a spray diagram? This tutorial explains all you need to know...

What are spray diagrams?

How to draw spray diagrams

Using the Working for Water Programme (WWP) case study...

Diagram guidelines


Tony Buzan originally developed spray diagrams in 1974 together with mind maps, which look similar (Buzan, 1974). Spray diagrams are a simple, fast technique for extracting the important ideas from a situation, conversation, presentation or written article and getting them down on paper in a way that is meaningful to you. A spray diagram starts from a theme in the centre and the ideas arrange around that theme showing the connections or associations between the ideas. Sometimes it is useful to introduce a small number of sub-themes into which your subsequent ideas group.


  • A title describing the purpose of the diagram.
  • Central circle for the main theme or topic.
  • Blobs (not perfect circles) for sub-themes or sub-topics (optional).
  • Branching sets of lines.
  • Words on the lines or at the ends of the lines describing the various ideas you wish to incorporate.
  • There are no arrows.


  • Put the main theme or topic as a keyword or phrase in a central circle.
  • Perhaps put rings around other key sub-themes.
  • Related ideas expressed in one or a few words are attached to lines radiating from this circle (or optionally from the sub-themes or sub-topics creating fans).
  • Write words along the lines or ends of lines.
  • The lines do not show directional links, just an association.
  • Use different colours to highlight particular fans.


  • Write down the central idea leaving space all around it.
  • Identify branches from that idea that you want to explore further. Write them down around the central idea and link each to it with a straight line. Keep going by considering each branch to see if further branches (ideas) link to it.
  • Express ideas in one or a few words.
  • Start by working freely and then review the diagram to see whether the particular arrangement meets with your objective.
  • If you are stuck or lose the thread, start again with a new central theme and create a new, perhaps subsidiary, diagram. Don’t clutter up the original. You could perhaps just leave things for a while to give you time for some fresh thinking.


Buzan, A. (1974) Use your head, London, UK, BBC Publications.


Become an OU student

Ratings & Comments

Share this free course

Copyright information

Skip Rate and Review

For further information, take a look at our frequently asked questions which may give you the support you need.

Have a question?